Food Coalition

Addressing gender inequalities to mitigate economic and social impacts of COVID-19 pandemic in rural areas

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected nearly every rural household, with particularly serious effects on the most vulnerable. Mobility restrictions have disrupted livelihoods, while the economic downturn has pushed disadvantaged and vulnerable groups deeper into poverty, creating “new poor” and exacerbating gender and social inequalities. Women and girls have been disproportionally affected, due to existing gender inequalities, including inequitable access to and control over resources and services. School closures, elderly care and overwhelmed health services have increased the demands on women for unpaid care work. Across Europe and Central Asia, the time women spend on unpaid care and domestic work has risen due to lockdown measures, to 3.2 activities per woman versus 2.3 activities per man.

These implications are constraining women and men from partaking in economic activities as farmers, processors, traders and workers. The labour-force participation rate of women is high in Central Asia, averaging 45 percent, especially in the agrifood sector. Many women work in the informal sector, as self-employed smallholder farmers, producing goods for their own use or as contributing family workers. Not only do such jobs pay less, but they lack social, pension or health benefits, leaving rural women unprotected in case of illness or unemployment. During lockdown, small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), microbusinesses and small rural businesses with a high share of female workers have suffered disproportionately, as they depend on access to markets, public spaces or movement more generally for economic activity. This has cut income and output and affected the growing season. Moreover, domestic violence against women and girls has intensified as a result of tensions triggered by containment measures.

Priority Areas of work: Economic Inclusion and Social Protection to Reduce Poverty
SDG: 1. No Poverty, 2. Zero Hunger, 5. Gender Equality, 8. Decent Work and Economic Growth, 10. Reduced Inequality
Level: Regional
Region: Europe and Central Asia
Country: Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan
Budget: USD 2 million


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